In large part due to a shift in our modern understanding of the word, our minds conjure up images of the super wealthy whenever we hear “Philanthropy” It is our modern conception that in order to be a philanthropist, one has to be wealthy-but this could not be farther from the truth. In fact, there are studies that back the ever more popular school of thought that poor people are actually more generous than the wealthy.
By definition, whenever somebody gives out to or does something for another out of the goodness of their hearts, then that somebody becomes a philanthropist. In our increasingly more materialistic modern society, it is easy to see how the view towards giving has become so skewed over time as to reserve philanthropy to strictly the act of doling out cash. This is not to say that cash is not important-it certainly is! But it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the be all and end all of being kind-which is what philanthropy, is all about in the end.
In a 1940 article written by Corinne Updegraff Wells, we encounter an excellent expose on the power of philanthropy when it takes the form of practical means. This article which was written for The Rotarian gives an excellent example of philanthropy without cash. In the article we encounter “Mrs B” who offers her neighbour the gift of 48 Tuesday afternoons.
Once a week, except in August when she travelled, Mrs B would take the place of this mother of 3 who could not afford to get the services of a househelp, and thus had no chance for recreation. On Tuesday afternoons, Mrs B would tell stories, play games with the children, darn socks, while her grateful neighbour would take a much needed afternoon off.
Philanthropy is not a prerogative of the rich, it is a prerogative of the kind and with a little effort anybody can find a way to be a philanthropist whether they have cash to spare or not. An excerpt from the beginning of Corinne Updegraff’s article puts this nicely
Most of us are exceedingly generous with the millions we do not possess and we smugly offer our lack of money as excuse for our lack of generosity. Yet generosity has surprisingly little to do with money. Many of the most precious gifts bear no price tags. Ingenuity and imagination often provides gifts which make presents purchased with money seem cheap and tawdry by comparison.
The fact is there are many ways the ordinary individual can be a philanthropist. You could offer:
- Your time
- Your energy
- A smile
- A greeting
- A please
- A thank you
- A Prayer
- A kind word
- A piece of advice
- A performance
All you need is ingenuity and a willing heart. It is tragic that many people feel that they are only indulging in philanthropy when they feel they have sacrificed something. The effect is that they look down on the many gifts that life has robustly endowed them with while tacitly overlooking others.
What is it that you feel you have an excess of? Talent, time, wisdom, knowledge?
That is where your philanthropy should start from.
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